Letter: Start researching answers to the world’s problems


As Wednesday’s South Whidbey Record illustrates, all humans, as self-aware animals, cannot live without hope. Very recently, an 18-year-old woman who made credible threats in the Columbine, Colo. school district, was found dead by her own hand. We all know that one day we will die. Without hope, many of us decide to choose death much sooner than the natural course of our life would dictate.

The two main varieties of hope are religious and secular. Lorinda Newton’s eloquent and articulate letter speaks for Christian hope, the most common variety of religious hope in our largely Christian society. As time passes, all varieties of religious hope, often a perverse spur to conflict and despair, have become more tolerant of each other.

One can find Jewish hope, Islamic hope, Buddhist hope, Hindu hope, Mormon hope and so on. One source indicates the total number of religious beliefs at over 4,000.

Many of us are more inclined toward secular hope, hope based on science and empirical evidence. We forego the hope of life after death. We try to stay alive and healthy as long as we can. There is some overlap in that most religious believers use sensible medical data and options to stay healthy and alive as long as possible.

When some religious beliefs oppose blood transfusions and vaccinations, for the most parts such religious interference with the world of empirical evidence is regarded as dubious and dangerous.

Another difficult interaction between the religious world and the secular world occurs when individual beliefs interfere with general welfare.

When I was a child, polio was an epidemic disease. My parents refused to allow my four siblings and me to be inoculated. None of us contracted polio; probably because of herd immunity.

As I write this, measles has become a world wide epidemic.

If a person chooses to live in complete isolation and refuse vaccination as an individual, perhaps that is an acceptable, if impractical, choice.

To refuse to vaccinate children and then send them to school and other public activities endangers public health.

Just as no one of us as an individual can dethrone Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, each of us is limited in what we can do for other social and environmental problems.

I turn now to one of the problems that bedevils our community: plastic. I salute Don Brunnel’s fine article: “Retrieving trash from ocean is only the first step.”

Here I offer a modest suggestion: fungus. Modestly named Aspergillus tubingensis.

If you look it up on the internet, you will learn that it devours plastic

This “miracle fungus” can help preserve our little charming island and perhaps serve as a beacon to all the tourists and seasonal “rain birds,” who help our merchants, farmers, craftspeople, artists, retirees and spiritual seekers survive and feel good about ourselves, our woods, our gardens and farms, our beaches, lakes, quiet Salish Sea, our bunnies, our squirrels, our heedless deer our cunning coyotes. Our magnificent avian life.

I suggest quiet action. Look up a web page titled marineinsight.com and dig down to “ruining the ocean.” Once the fungi are munching there will be no room for plastic people, or at least flamingos, which are so yesterday.

Finest investigative reporters on our islands’ award-winning newspapers, please start digging into your genuine — no plastic used — Pulitzer Prize.

Stephen Kahn


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